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« The Costs of Dissent...and the Contributions | Main | The McChrystal/Obama Side Show »


Chris Holland

Mr. Aushry,

Having heard wonderful things about you from colleagues, I explored your website & blog with a positive pre-disposition. I then came upon your post, "Who are the Real Nazis?" and became very discouraged. If you are as influential as I am led to believe, I encourage you to take another look, with a stance of understanding and respect, not one that appears to embody the very attitude you condemn.

I am writing you because I believe you are a thoughtful, influential professional. I don’t take valuable time out of my day to write to whackos. I write with respect to urge you to re-consider your public discourse in regard to this issue.

I agree with you on one matter. Obama is not Hitler or Hitler-like. Nor was George Bush, or for that matter, any President I can think of in my life time. Those who hold signs to that effect, are themselves demonstrating their own ignorance and foolishness regarding national discourse.

Your phrase, “mostly white, mostly Republican, mostly bigoted” characterizing the people gathering to protest federal government policy at the Tea Parties (Sarah Palin’s so-called “real people”) is loaded with reader-pleasing assumptions that bare examining themselves.

Let’s start with, “mostly bigoted.” Do you really have the extensive personal experience to support this bold, condemning conclusion? I find it hard to believe, but maybe you have mingled with Tea Party goers and truly have the first hand data. I would stand corrected if my assumption is wrong.
I spent a day at the Boston Tea Party talking with Tea Party members and protesters alike, from Cowboy-hat-wearing, flag-waving, men and women to gay, socialist (self-proclaimed & promoting), and young black, white, and Arab college student protesters. (I also read and watch more news stories than I can count from NPR to Fox, NYT to WSJ. )

In Boston I saw many engaging debates, almost always respectful even though intense on both sides. I never heard one racial slur, gay bashing phrase, or “you’re not a real American” assault even though protester signs were condemning in their tone, accusing people of being “homophobic,” “pissed off white people,” “rich upper class snobs.” “dumb,” and “war mongering Americans.” I also did not see these protesters as destructive. While they began provocatively, most found themselves engaging in lengthy dialogue (rough to be sure but dialogue nonetheless.) I did not see the crowd you described.
Now on to the phrase, “mostly white.” This fact is clear to the casual observer, (though there were some hispanics, black supporters, Asians, and women), but I think you’re implying more than just a head count would indicate. My concern with your characterization is that it takes for granted that “mostly white” is bad or otherwise invalid. Would you be as dismissive of the huge crowds of protesters of the Arizona Immigration Law seen on TV, referring to them as “mostly hispanic?” Surely not, nor would I. Does “mostly white” mean the same thing as bigoted to you? Would you refer to the minority of minorities bigoted or would you label them “self loathing?” Is it possible that there are thoughtful people in the crowd?

Now for “mostly Republican.” By this you must mean people who support limited Federal Government, lower taxes, the rule of law (once there is a law duly passed by a representative Congress), Constitutional grounding for Court Decisions rather than personal/professional judgement, less Gov. tax funded charity and more self reliance and private charity, confidence in the productivity and innovation of a mostly free market, and strong defense of our country? I think not. Or do you see these things as ontologically bad and worthy of distain and dismissal rather than debate? I hope not.

I am saddened by the dismissive and condemning stance being promoted by influential people around the country, on all sides. (I feel similarly about the phrase, “Looney Left” and have confronted those using it.)

That said, I am outraged by one thing. Influential leaders seriously accusing a vocal American of being like a Nazi, being “pure HItler,” or using any other such condemning phrases. First, it trivializes the horror of Nazi Germany and those who died under its evil, unleashed power. Second, it demonizes and dismisses the other, the very thing you write against. Third, responding that Sarah Palin, Tea Party members, or and Republicans are the “Real Nazis” is as preposterous as saying a baseball is a nuclear missile because both fly through the air. I’d rather you just said, “I’m rubber. You’re glue. Whatever is thrown at me bounces off me and sticks to you.” I would hope a systems-thinker, such as you are, would make a more sophisticated argument. Perhaps a more respectful one.

I wish you could have experienced the debates in small self-forming groups all around the Tea Party event in Boston - no one seems to be interested in these precious and fragile demonstrations of democracy. (I’ve documented one such two-hour-long discussion with an Arab American college student and a crowd of about 35 Tea Party people -( case presented at ) I’m still looking for the people involved in the others.)

The predominant culture appears to be more fascinated with the Nazi signs (I saw none. I looked and would have snapped a picture. Full disclosure: I did see one uncomfortable looking teen holding a sign saying “God hates Fags.” Once I called the attention of about 30 people to him, asked if he was for real or impersonating a Tea Party member for shock value, and after all acknowledged him as troubled either way, he put down his sign and faded away, not to be seen again.) Now that’s a story we can all sink our collective teeth into. But why? There are so many other more promising and important stories to follow. I would urge us all to highlight the truly human, even heated, meaningful debates that resolve with better understanding, with a meeting of the minds, albeit without agreement. Isn’t that what free speech and the vote were crafted to address?

Mr. Aushry, I ask you to reconsider your post. I’d would welcome a conversation with you and others. I urge you to speak with Tea Party members one-on-one, and consider if writing an addendum to your BLOG would be appropriate and helpful.

With respect and hope.

A fellow traveler.

Chris Holland


Apology, Mr. Oshry, near unforgivable ...

"to err is human... and all that stuff"
But timing is everything.

Michael Sales

Well, Chris, I wish that I saw more thoughtfulness out of the Tea Party like that which you've expressed in this note.

Let me say why my views are closer to Oshry's than yours:

1. As I understand him, Oshry is focused on bringing "robust systems" into being, i.e., human systems that have a dynamic balance between his compass points of:

--Differentiation, i.e., those features of a system that are distinctive from each other.
--Integration, i.e., those features of a system that incline the totality of the system and all of its human agents toward some sort of over-arching goal or mission
--Individuation, i.e., those aspects of a system that encourage and allow the full expression of individual liberty and choice, and
--Homogenization, i.e., the characteristics of a system that cause people to be like one another, in the same way that all musicians know the scales regardless of what sort of compositions they play

Whenever the compass points of this gyroscope of human systems gets off kilter, they get in trouble. And, when they get in trouble at a societal level, very, very terrible things happen.

I read Barry here as expressing a concern about over-differentiation,i.e,. too much concentration on what is special about my group and what is lousy about the other. When there's too much differentiation, Hutus start killing Tutus; Segregation by skill color is commonplace; Jews are holocauted. Hyper-individuation by sadists and their elevation to quasi-mythical and mystical status is, in my opinion, characteristic of over-differentiation. Brutal nuts come to epitomize the differentiated group.

That brings me to people like Glenn Beck. Now, I don't know who it is that Glenn Beck assembled on the Washington Mall on the anniversary of MLK's monumentally important speech there, but I suspect that a lot of these folks were Tea Party activists. Glenn Beck has a viewership of over 2,000,000/day. He's a guy who claims that Barack Obama "hates all white people" and that "radicals" who disagree with him should be "shot in the head." That's what happened to Gabby Gifford

I've got to run to something else right this moment, but I shall return.

Michael Sales

The particular perfidy of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, what's-his-name Savage and many others of that ilk is that they foment violence and they don't have the guts to own what they're doing; they don't want to be accountable. The results of their hate-speech are as obvious as the attack on Matthew Sheppard, but they're too chicken to take pride in their work.

They do it with a wink and a nod, with putting the cross-hairs of a rifle sight on particular Congressional districts.

Again, if it's not the folks who think of themselves as Tea Partiers and Republicans that are taking in this garbage, who is it? Let us recall that fmr VP Cheney recently said that Rush Limbaugh is more of a Republican than General Colin Powell.

Back to Oshry: It's my opinion that Barry's condemnation of any system that gets as unbalanced as America's has been lately along any of the dimensions he cites. If there's too much conformity and people knowing and doing only a few thing, he wouldn't like such a simple system. If there's too much rigidity of alignment with "over arching goals and values," i.e., too much integration, he'd want to know, "What happened to individuality in this culture?!" So, he's an equal opportunity critic when it comes to systemic excesses.

My point, which is not going to be fully elaborated simply because I don't have the time to think everything through and get everything written as well as I can, is as follows: Oshry's comments here may seem too categorical, and maybe they are, but to me they are completely understandable. The Republican Party has allowed itself to be overly influenced by extremist voices and views. Denying this obvious fact isn't helping the US face the challenges of the present and the future and it is an ominous sign for what could happen to America if these people gain more power.

As a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC demonstrates vividly, Hitler and the Nazis came to full power via a set of iterative actions and legislation that aggregated into the methodical murder of millions, the destruction of many nations and the near ruination of one of the great peoples of the world. As Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here, informs us, America's Constitution, etc. can be seriously challenge by extremism when the right circumstances are achieved []. (Lewis lessons from the early ear of fascism are captured in Philip Roth's brilliant echo, The Plot Against America.

Oshry may not have gotten everything phrased exactly right in a brief blog that constitutes a small portion of his output, but he's pointing us the proper direction.

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now i know who nazis are thanks for the help and information :P

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